Blockchain for books

Simon-Pierre Marion

Simon-Pierre Marion is the president and founder of Scenarex. Having graduated with the highest honour from UQAM, Mr. Marion holds both a bachelors degree in computer science (B.Sc.A.) and an executive master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) with a specialization in technology management. He is an entrepreneur with a combined experience of over 20 years in the management of teams, projects, and budgets. In 2015, Mr. Marion decided to combine his passions for entrepreneurship, technology, and literature to bring his creativity into the domain of ebooks. His life mission, as well as his organization mission, is to bring innovation to the service of every author. He aims to provide a benefit to their digital works through a shared economy that protects their rights and ensures an equitable distribution of the revenues between every party.

Simon-Pierre Marion will be a panellist at Tech Forum 2018 in a session titled Blockchain and Building the Future of Information Management and Sharing

I believe that words are weapons… Weapons of mass creation! With them, authors create books that teach us, make us react, and grow our inner selves.

Way before the technological era, literature and other written works were one of the most important tools for knowledge transfer — vital agents to society and its culture. For thousands of years, cities, provinces/states, and countries have ensured the sustainability of their literature and written works by sharing them with their citizens thanks to knowledge hubs like universities, libraries, and historical sites.

With the invention of printing presses, books became more widely disseminated and knowledge became more accessible. Now, in the new era of information and communication technologies, the medium of books is migrating to digital, accelerating this democratization. Although the container has drastically changed, the importance of the content remains the same. Cities, states/provinces, countries, and their institutions must adapt to this new reality to sustain and share their own cultures.

The question here is “how?” How can you ensure the sustainability of digital literature while preserving its integrity with a fair return to its author(s)?

Well, I don’t pretend to know what the future has in store, but I strongly believe that the answer to the question above resides in a new technology called “blockchain.”

What is blockchain and where does it come from?

In their article “The Truth About Blockchain”, Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani explain blockchain as “a peer-to-peer network that sits on top of the internet” that was “introduced in October 2008 as part of a proposal for bitcoin.” Bitcoin is actually the first application of blockchain technology — it’s a virtual currency system (also called cryptocurrency) “that eschewed a central authority for issuing currency, transferring ownership, and confirming transactions.” But blockchain isn’t “simply” a cryptocurrency solution. It can do so much more! Before we get to what blockchain can do for digital literature (i.e., ebooks), let’s get a better grasp on what it is.

Decorative image.

Blockchain offers a public, distributed database (analogous to a general ledger) on a network. It’s a means for someone to submit transactional information that will be recorded in the general ledger without the possibility of modifying it once registered. The official registration of the transaction is guaranteed by decentralized agents who are located in the same network supporting the distributed database. These agents provide the executing power for the various algorithms that ensure the recording of the transaction in the database is permanent. Each recorded transaction is stored in blocks that are linked in sequence (hence the term “chain”). Every transaction and its associated value are visible to anyone with access to the system and can be verified without an intermediary. Blockchain also provides a secured process, using public and private keys, for individuals to identify themselves in the network while staying anonymous if desired. This is why we can consider blockchain an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.

Iansiti and Lakhani are convinced that “with blockchain, we can imagine a world in which contracts are embedded in digital code and stored in transparent, shared databases, where they are protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organizations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction. This is the immense potential of blockchain.”

Blockchain in the ebook industry

If we extrapolate their vision into the ebook industry, this would mean that we could have a means for authors and editors to publish their work directly into an ebook blockchain. The content of every ebook would then be protected from deletion, tampering, or revision. A single source of truth! Readers would then securely access this ebook blockchain and record a payment transaction to access the content they want. The ebook blockchain agents would manage the recording of the payments and ensure proper distribution to the creator(s) of the content. And the beauty of this is that it would be completely transparent!

Going back to my premise regarding the role of cities, states/provinces, countries, and their institutions in sustaining their cultures through literature, how would that work? I mean, if we ever get to a point where we don’t need anything other than an ebook blockchain to ensure the sustainability of the world’s literature, would this mean the beginning of the end for local cultures? And, if so, is that a good thing or not?

As I said earlier, I don’t pretend to know the answer or what the future has in store, but one thing is for sure: blockchain is definitively going to change our digital era!

If you’d like to hear more from Simon-Pierre Marion about blockchain and the future of information management, register for Tech Forum, March 23, 2018 in Toronto. You can find more details about the conference here, or sign up for our mailing list to get all of the conference updates.